Needless to say: Trigger warning.
Yesterday I arrived at work much the same as usual, slightly late with a guilty cup of Starbucks when I slowly began to skim the news as my emails poured in.
"Video depicts Lana del Rey rape scene."
Without warning every fiber of my body felt hurtled toward the floor. Without any sort of insight into what this story and video were actually about, I was suddenly unable to breathe, concentrate, think clearly.
Welcome to the world of triggers.
I am a rape victim. Some people prefer the more new-age term "sexual assault survivor," but for me, that doesn't carry with it the same dose of jolting truth and realism that the honest term "rape victim" employs. I also happen to work in a music and media industry, meaning that every newsfeed and Google result and conversation that flurries around my day to day is suffused with all things music-related. Naturally, I was awash in news of a mysterious and disturbing video depicting rape.
But instead of the media focusing on the disturbing reasons why someone felt this was artistic and/or a necessary medium with which to discuss sexual assault, people watched and shared the video.
By all accounts, I am outwardly unaffected by my assault.
I go on dates, smile at cute men on the subway. I occasionally like someone enough to date them regularly and even sleep with them. I rarely talk about rape and/or share my story because it changes how people see me, communicate with me and it leads to strange questions about how I ended up in my situation -- rather than questions about what this means on a larger scale for me or for women like me.
In fact, I avoid triggers. I only visit female doctors, I don't watch films with rape scenes, I refuse to support the celebrities facing blatant sexual assault allegations (Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Terry Richardson, R Kelly, etc).
But I'm curious, why is our culture so sickly fascinated by watching women get raped?
And why are these conversations always about the act and never about the aftermath -- like the way a victim freezes, unable to fight back or about the initial emergency room visit or the probing questions from doctors and police officers. Or perhaps the 6 months of rigorous blood tests for HIV/STDs, the never-ending therapy sessions, the sickening shame and self-blame, the overwhelming loneliness, the triggers that make you panic and throw up or remain unable to sleep? Why don't we talk about awareness? About changing the way we raise our sons? About changing the way we listen to women who share their stories? About how we support victims?
Why do so many women remain silent, people always ask. In my own "recovery" post-rape, I participated in group therapy alongside six other women who had the same fate as me. We came from all backgrounds, areas and ranged in ages from 18 to 32. All of us spoke out in our own respective means and channels.
Guess how many of us had witnessed our rapists receive a form of criminal or legal "justice?" Zero.
Not a single one of our rapists was handcuffed, charged or locked away. As victims sharing our stories, we were each met with skepticism, outright disbelief and/or were shamed or discouraged from taking further action. How's that as a result?
Why isn't that headline news?
You want to watch a star-studded, "artsy" video about being raped? Let me beg you to instead read the countless police reports and victim testimonies of REAL women being raped by REAL men.
No celebrity faces and soundtracked music necessary.
Just black and white prose. Just disturbing truths and the even more disturbing fact that nearly every single one of these men walk free and live in neighborhoods near you, your sisters, your daughters and your mothers. And they'll do it again because our society actively participated in saying "your actions are okay."
Now that's triggering.